Today [7th September 2021], the public inquiry into the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the fire at Grenfell Tower resumes. It marks the next stage in a process that is looking to learn the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire to ensure that it never happens again.
Alongside the public inquiry, the Government will also begin to hear oral evidence on the Building Safety Bill this week.
The Bill, which was published in July this year, prescribes a new regulatory system for the design, construction and operation of higher risk buildings (defined as buildings that are at least 18m in height or have at least 7 storeys), and it is expected to become law next year.
As well as establishing a new Building Safety Regulator, who will become the building control authority for buildings in scope of the Act, with powers of enforcement and sanctions, the Bill also sets out new legal duties for those who own and manage higher-risk buildings during the occupation, known as the Accountable Person.
The Accountable Person has defined responsibilities in the Bill, which are to,
- register the building and apply for a Building Assessment Certificate before it becomes occupied (includes existing buildings that are occupied)
- assess the building safety risks relating to the building and demonstrate how they are meeting this ongoing duty via their safety case and Safety Case Report.
- appoint a person as the Building Safety Manager, responsible for managing the building in accordance with the Safety Case Report.
- prepare a residents’ engagement strategy for promoting the participation of residents in the making of building safety decisions.
And where there is more than one Accountable Person, the Bill also introduces the role of Principal Accountable Person.
When the Bill is enacted these will become legal duties with criminal liability.
If you own a higher risk building or are advising someone who does, then it is important to understand the responsibilities that will be imposed on you under this legislation and begin acting now to prepare for the Act and ensure that residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes.
Paul Nash MSc PPCIOB